By Duane Cross
ATLANTA — Dr. Tim Elmore has a little Steve Jobs in him. While Elmore isn’t a titan in Silicon Valley, he is earnestly focused on the next big thing: Onefluence.
Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Elmore has that same sentiment in his approach at Growing Leaders, a non-profit leadership training and development company. Founded in 2003 by Elmore, Growing Leaders serves public schools, state universities, and civic organizations, as well as faith-based organizations and churches. The Growing Leaders website notes the goal is to equip and mobilize 1 percent of the world’s population under the age of 25 to think and act like authentic, life-giving leaders.
“A tiny fraction of the population could sway the rest of the population — 1 percent could sway the 99 percent, if that 1 percent bought into an idea with reckless abandon.”
— Dr. Tim Elmore
“Over the next 20 years,” Elmore said, “we’re equipping Millennial generation students who will change the world between now and 2035, when the youngest of the Millennial generation will no longer be in school. By 2025, the entire generation will be adults. Our hope is they’ll be living in a better world than they do today, because they led the way.”
Simply put, the mission is to turn ordinary students into growing leaders who will transform society. Elmore & Co. have set out to “move the needle of history by equipping 1 percent of the youth around the world to think and act like authentic leaders. This represents 35 million kids. We’re calling it Onefluence.”
This is a once-in-a-lifetime project built upon four initiatives:
• It will be worldwide.
• It will involve both Growing Leaders and its philanthropic arm, The Growing Leaders Initiative.
• It will include both secular and faith-based partners.
• It will be partner-driven; Growing Leaders is only a facilitator.
Elmore readily admitted there was pushback: “It’s been, ‘Are we ready for the long haul?’
“This is not going to happen overnight. This is not going to be a flash-in-the pan campaign that lasts six months. This is years of investment.
The seed for Elmore’s global Onefluence initiative was planted more than a decade ago. “I absolutely believe that what’s happened in the past will be dwarfed by what happens in the future,” he said. “We do one thing well: leader development.”
Still about a year from launch, Elmore is committed to solving problems and serving people through Growing Leaders and Onefluence. “We’re building a whole generation that comes up the next Habitat for Humanity, that comes up with a plan for clean water. An entire continent may be saved because of a kid that came through and did cure cancer. … We want to be the wind in the sails that pushes the boat ashore.”
While the Onefluence charge may be to “change the world,” there is uncertainty. “It is going to be a risky venture,” Elmore said. “There are no guarantees that going into that developing nation means it’s going to work out happily ever after.
“I love what one of my friends said: ‘If I don’t get that job done, my face is going to be facing that direction when I die!’ That’s the spirit of the great leaders of the past.”
As Elmore examines today’s youth he sees a confluence of technology, parental styles, meds, and other things affecting their capability. “I don’t think it’s because that kid is stupid or wicked or evil … they just got slowed down emotionally, perhaps, in their maturation.
“We know that leadership and maturation are not equal,” he said. “but usually when you mature, you begin to give back. It’s not just about me — it’s about others.”
To drive home this fact, Growing Leaders’ “Habitudes” relies on puzzle pieces and box tops. Simply put: You do not put together a large puzzle without looking at the box top. It shows the big picture. “It’s a healthy way to mentor kids. They’re humbled that they play a part in a much bigger picture.”
As Growing Leaders embarks on Onefluence, Elmore believes building perspective in today’s youth is paramount. “That proverbial question, ‘Is the glass half full or half empty?’ … I think it all depends on whether you are filling the glass or emptying the glass.”
Is there a better way to solve problems and serve people? Onefluence soon will take a bite out of that apple in the name of growing 35 million young leaders.
Read more about Tim Elmore and Growing Leaders on the website.
Tim Elmore on iDisciple